While they didn't come away with the win, West Virginia University and University of Rome Tor Vergata's Solar Decathlon 2015 team did bring home first prize in two categories along with major lessons learned from the competition.
"Making the trip to California to compete in the Solar Decathlon was a valuable experience for all of us," said Sharrafti Kuzmar, a senior computer science and electrical engineering major from Morgantown. "We're proud we had the opportunity to represent our universities."
A two-time Solar Decathlon veteran, Kuzmar is proud of how far the team has come and the improvements they made compared to the last competition.
"We improved in every single category compared to our last entry," said Kuzmar. "There's always room for improvement, but I would say we've come pretty far."
The team blew the competition away in the fan favorite contest, which culminated after a week of voting. With more than 150,000 votes, WVU and UTV's house--named STILE--was chosen by a two-to-one margin over any other house.
"We won fan favorite by a landslide, which was really exciting," said Kuzmar. "It felt amazing to know we had so many supporters behind us from West Virginia, Rome and around the world. We couldn't have done it without our great friends, family, sponsors and the university communities."
The team was also awarded full points in the commuting contest, which challenged teams to drive an electric vehicle charged from the house's electric system several times during the competition to simulate the driving patterns of a typical household.
The team was supported by a large group that donated time, money and supplies to make their vision for STILE come to life. Those companies include Allegheny Design, ASKEEN, BestLaminate, Bison, Brewer Fire Protection, Cardello, Carrier, CSC, DB Com, the U.S. Department of Energy, Eaton, Elkay, Enetec, Florafelt, Huntington Steel, ISM, JPL Compressor Service, KeyLogic, Mills Group, MSA, MTV Solar, NREL, Plants on Walls, Qolsys, SnapNrack, SolarEdge, SolarWorld, Tekla, Triangle Sales, TTE, V & W Electric and Supply, Velux, Watek, Water Wise Group and Wood-Mode.
With their eyes set on the next competition, Kuzmar is ready to hand off the Solar Decathlon baton to the next group of students that will represent their respective schools.
"For the next competition, the challenge will be to design and build a house that excels in all the contests," said Kuzmar. "My best advice for the next group is to celebrate the small successes but don't lose sight of the big picture and always remember that your team and your supporters are your biggest assets."
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